La Cueva del Indio is one of over 2,000 caves on the island of Puerto Rico, and one of the most famous. You may recognize the idyllic setting from the set of Hollywood blockbusters like The Goonies and Pirates of the Carribbean.
Perched on a strip of cliffs overlooking turquoise blue waters in Arecibo, you can pair this site with a visit to the Arecibo Observatory for the perfect day trip from San Juan, exploring Puerto Rico’s varied viewpoints and most IG-friendly spots, from beaches to jungles.
About Cueva del Indio
The caves are made of natural limestone and originally served as a meeting place for Taino indians, the indigenous people of Puerto Rico prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493. Today, the walls still hold their drawings, which look to me like the earliest emojis.
In fact, La Cueva del Indio has the largest collection of petroglyphs in the area and is a lure to tourists and vandals alike. While it’s sad to see ancient carvings spoiled by modern key scratches, the island attempts to preserve the area as much as possible.
The site is public and not run or maintained by any official organization or agency. The owners of the parking lot adjacent to the beach have set up a makeshift entrance and charge $5 a person to park, but they are not officially affiliated with the site. If you can park elsewhere, you can enter for free.
That said, parking is limited in the area. If you want an easy and secure spot to leave your car, go for it. Note the parking lot owners only accept cash and the nearest ATM is a 15 minute drive from the caves.
How to get to La Cueva del Indio
Getting to the caves is easy and can be done without a tour or group, best with a rental car. Just plug the destination into your GPS (Americans will be happy to know there is no need to use roaming or international data plans in Puerto Rico) and follow the directions.
In case you need it, the exact geo-coordinates are 18°29’34.1″N 66°38’31.4″W. It’s about an hour and a half from either San Juan or Aguadilla so you can access it from both coasts.
Since La Cueva del Indio is largely unregulated, the rocks can be perilous. There are no guard rails and you descend into the cave on a wooden ladder, so wear the appropriate shoes and tread carefully. The tide is unpredictable in the area and while some daredevils dive off the cliffs, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as there are rocks in the water. This is a good place for exploring and sunbathing, not necessarily swimming.
The natural rock formations are unlike any other on the island, and provide ample photo opportunities. Unfortunately, the site leaves much to be desired with regards to organized visits or guides so it’s tough to learn details about the area and its history. Hopefully, as the place grows in popularity, an organization will come in to regulate the area and ensure its preservation.
EDIT: As of late 2018, the ladder to descend into the cave has been removed but guests can still enter via an opening at the top. You do so at your own risk and will need some sort of rock climbing ability. Ask the folks at the entrance for more information.
Is Cueva del Indio worth the trip?
Whether you’re a fan of geology, native culture or off the beaten path destinations, Cueva del Indio should be on your list of must-see destinations. It makes a great day trip from San Juan and allows you to see a different side of the island than just the cruise port.
Go ahead, have an adventure!
Till next time, safe travels.